Blockchain in Health: A Survey of Emerging Use Cases

Earlier this week, healthcare IT firm Change Healthcare became the newest member of the Hashed Health Blockchain Consortium, a distributed ledger consortium whose goal is to advance the use of blockchain protocols in healthcare. The expansion of this group and the quest for the establishment of standards for implementation of blockchain in healthcare are not surprising – the last year has witnessed a  sharp uptick in developers looking to bring blockchain to the industry. However, while the number of companies starting to apply blockchain – a distributed ledger technology that claims to offer several benefits over traditional databases, such as improved trustworthiness and automated smart contracts – to healthcare is growing, and while there certainly is a lot of hype surrounding this activity, there still remains confusion on the specific challenges these companies are looking to tackle and on the value they promise to deliver. In the table below, we synthesize currently sought-after use cases for blockchain in health, outline tech developers’ claims, and highlight players in each solution category.

From this survey of use cases for blockchain in healthcare, it becomes apparent that tech developers are currently looking to address eight primary challenges that persist in different aspects of the healthcare value chain, whether it be the transparency in the drug supply chain or better clinical decision-making, all the way to faster medical claims processing. Whether or not blockchain truly is the best – or only – technology to solve each of these problems remains an open question. In future research, we will examine this question in greater detail and will hone in on aspects of the healthcare industry that could truly become revolutionized by blockchain.

By: Noa Ghersin and Reno Sarge